My last post was quite some time ago, but I’ve been very busy lately, I was interning in Matthew Kenney’s restaurant in Venice Beach, called Plant Food and Wine, for the month of June (he is the founder of the culinary school I went to in Thailand). The restaurant serves plant-based food, 70 % cooked, as opposed to his culinary school which is best known for its raw courses.
After that I started to visit my family in Southern California… My grandma and I just came back from a 5 day trip in Las Vegas, visiting her sister. HOT HOT and DRY. Vegas is a crazy city, at least the downtown area and the Strip, where all the hotels are. It’s unreal, people go there to vacation and all the activities and entertainments are indoor, either casinos, shows like cirque du soleil, eating, etc. And then if you get out from this downtown area, you’ll see normal houses of locals living a totally different life from what Vegas appears to be famous for.
Anyways, part of my family on my Grandma’s side lives in Las Vegas in the outskirts, and the favorite thing we did during this trip was to go visit my Mom’s cousin Mikie (my second cousin?) and her beautiful farm. She lives in a town called Pahrump, about an hour from Vegas, with her husband and her animals. Their farm is called Prime Time Farms, she has a blog which you can visit here, they have chickens, pigs, couple turkeys, geese, and retired animals like an ex racing horse (given from my grandpa) , Jack the donkey and Lewis the male pig. All the breeds they have are rare, heritage breeds and on the way of extinction. All the animals have a huge area to run around in, outdoor and indoor, they get fed organic food and live a happy life.
The American Poultry Association began defining breeds in 1873, most of these breeds where well adapted to outdoor production in various climate regions. They were hearty, long-lived, providing an important source of protein to the growing population of the country till the mid 20th century. But with the industrialization of chickens (factory farming), many breeds were sidelined in preference for a few rapidly growing hybrids. Today there are over three-dozen breeds of chickens listed by the Livestock Conservancy in danger of extinction. Therefore to draw attention to these endangered breeds, to support their long-term conservation, to re introduce these culinary and cultural treasures to the market, the Livestock Conservancy is defining Heritage Chickens.
The Turkeys on the farm are from the Spanish Black Turkey breed: they expanded in Europe in the 1500s and were selected for meat production for two centuries. Once arrived in America, it started to get mixed up with other breeds.
Their pigs instead are from the Red Wattle breed, they have red-brown-black colorings, their meat is lean and juicy, the sows are excellent mothers whos labor litters of 9-10 piglets, and they adapt well to a wide range of climates.
This breed is thought to be originally from France and was brought to America when French arrived in Louisiana. Unfortunately, as settlers moved west, the breed began to fall out of favor, because settlers preferred other breeds with a higher fat content, important for lard and soap. Red Wattlers were left to roam in the hills of Texas, where they were hunted to near extinction, until Mr. Wengler came across a herd in the dense forest and began breeding them into what they are today.
Today, the Red Wattle hog is listed as being critically endangered meaning there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the U.S. and fewer than 2000 in the world.
Here are the pigs at the farm:
At the farm they also grow a big variety of vegetables, they have vines for making wine, big composting piles and a worm pile too, everything organic and eco-sustainable.
Mikie has many interests from buyers, mostly chefs from Las Vegas and many many Asians. The day we were visiting, later in the afternoon she was expecting a group of Chinese, who often drive from Las Vegas who buy her meats and empty out her freezer. A lady from this group makes a lot of Chinese-stile soups and says that Mikie’s pork is the best she’s ever seen, she will cook the soup for hours and hours, and the pork won’t disintegrate and remain tender.
The farm was great, everything organic and kept in such a natural state, the animals are grown humanely as it should be and killed in a humane and fearless way.
If only there were more people like Mikie out there in the world.
Before leaving we got some beautiful produce from her garden and eggs to bring back home…the grapes were incredible, so sweet and juicy, and the heirloom tomatoes were to die for!
For dinner I made us a quinoa and brown rice salad with her tomatoes, squash, and added some avocado and few greens.
And I made us a frittata with her swiss chard and eggs:
I sautéed two cloves of garlic with two tbls of olive oil, then added the washed and chopped leaves of swiss chard, covered and let wilt down. In the mean time, cracked 7 eggs in a bowl and whisked, added salt and pepper. Added the eggs to the pan of swiss chard and made sure the mixture spread evenly, added a bit of crumbled feta on top, covered and let cook on low heat, while using a spatula on the borders to make sure it is not sticking. Then flip the frittata (using a plate) and cook for few more minutes on the other side.